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Actors' mumbled word[edit]

This is an rfv-sense for definition 3: "On the British stage, reputedly the word mumbled repetitively by actors supposed to be talking together inaudibly (as the word does not have any harsh-sounding consonants)".

I'm not disputing that this is the case (I have no idea, actually) but even if it is, this is encyclopedic information and not a definition of rhubarb, and hence does not meet CFI. --Jeffqyzt 02:01, 29 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

I disagree and think it should be kept. By extension, the words "rhubarb, rhubarb" are often said to people (not actors) who are mumbling when they talk to you, as a parody of this practice. --Dmol 06:10, 29 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

  • The OED has it :- 4. a. The word ‘rhubarb’ as repeated by actors to give the impression of murmurous hubbub or conversation. Hence allusively. SemperBlotto 07:23, 29 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

It has a verifiable meaning, namely no meaning. Zero is still a number, and the empty set is still a set.

# Such and such plant (when used in the context of plants, implied).
# Its root (when used in the context of food, implied).
# No actual meaning, when used in such and such context.

I think we even have a few words entirely like that. DAVilla 14:02, 29 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Hrm...ok, but should it be a noun, then? Would you say, "Don't speak in a rhubarb?" (== mumble/whisper) Or would it be more like "What's he saying? Oh, it's just rhubarb." (== nonsense/nothing) I just don't have any idea how it would be used from the definition (other than on an actual stage, in which case it's not idiomatic.) The definition as given is etymologically descriptive of use, not of meaning. Does anyone have a cite or a usage example they could insert? --Jeffqyzt 14:21, 29 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Good point. It should be an interjection, not a noun. None of the examples you gave are legit since they imply the meanings you gave, when the word has no meaning, as implied if not explicitly stated by our definition. I don't like the OED definition because any word can mean an instance of that word. For instance, in this explanation should appears four times, twice in italics for clarity. That doesn't mean should should be listed as a noun, even if it is possible to use it as such, as demonstrated here. DAVilla 14:38, 29 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Seems more like a usage note than a definition - that it's used in this sense does not mean that it is referring to anything othr than the vegetable with each murmer. bd2412 T 20:43, 29 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Cites added to all senses, and most of sense three definition moved to a usage note. Since rhubarb, rhubarb... is normally said for about a minute or more, purposely said in a quiet voice so it the words are unintelligible, I think it qualifies as a noun rather than an interjection. There may also be a verb use, but I've steered clear of adding that. --Enginear 18:10, 1 October 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I dont think it is a method of acting, which is what the definition seems to imply at present. I am changing the def to say (Acting) A word repeated softly to emulate background conversation. I am removing the RFV sense, as it is well known and attested, but am not putting rfvpassed. This conversation is being moved to the talk page. Andrew massyn 13:35, 29 October 2006 (UTC)[reply]

My grandmother used to, in advance of when she had visitors whom she didn't want to "overstay their welcome" , telephone me and ask me to telephone her at a certain time to "talk rhubarb" . I would call her at said time, and literally say the words "rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb" over and over. She would then relay a pre-planned conversation about some sort of urgent matter that would cue her guests to leave. Therefore, Talking rubharb, to me, means talking "jibberish" or talking nonsense under your breath. It means nothing but the sound of inaudible conversation.

Latin Etymology[edit]

I am quite certain that the word does not derive from Rha. Latin words, rhaponticum, rhacoma, reubarbarum, would at least be redundant.

Isidorus of Sevilla explains reu = quasi radix (note, not Rha)

my gut feeling is that it is a loan word from an eastern language and cognate with the name of the plant in Slavic language, Russian ревень, Czech reveň (which my Czech etymologic dictionary points to a loanword from further East, Persian ریواس, Kurdish rêwas.

--Diligent 23:39, 27 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]


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The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Requests for cleanup.

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Shift some quotes to citations page. Usage notes are etymological (Move to ety section, under show/hide?) DCDuring TALK 11:55, 14 July 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Etyms moved, with show/hide. Citations glut no longer a problem with show/hide functionality now inbuilt. — Pingkudimmi 13:10, 5 January 2012 (UTC)[reply]
@DCDuring, Pingku Moved citations to citations page. Please check if this still fits for an RFC. --kc_kennylau (talk) 08:17, 1 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Looks good enough. I put all the etymologies under a single "show/hide", especially as they are related. DCDuring TALK 11:36, 1 February 2014 (UTC)[reply]

I find the "development of meanings" section utterly confusing. After reading the definitions, one might deduce that the three bullets of the "development of meanings" section relate to definitions 3, 4 and 5, but that is not stated! 01:03, 14 February 2015 (UTC)[reply]

"Hit the rhubarb"[edit]

There is a colloquial expression in the Canadian Prairies "to hit the rhubarb", meaning "to accidentally leave the road while driving", or occasionally metaphorically "to inadvertently get into a difficult situation". This meaning is apparently attested in Partridge's slang dictionary, though I don't have a copy of it to check. I started to write an entry for it, but realized I don't know where it would belong or how to write it correctly. TooManyFingers (talk) 17:18, 28 September 2020 (UTC)[reply]

hit the rhubarb seems fine, unless "rhubarb" means something on its own like the side of the road. DTLHS (talk) 02:23, 29 September 2020 (UTC)[reply]
It's pretty rare, at least in Google Books. There are a few hits for phrases like "drive into the rhubarb", "heading for the rhubarb" and "stay out of the rhubarb", so I suspect the lemma would be "rhubarb", with "the rhubarb" being synonymous with "the weeds" or "the rough". Some of it is from Iowa, so it looks like it may be more of a Midwestern US/south central Canadian thing. Chuck Entz (talk) 05:29, 29 September 2020 (UTC)[reply]
FWIW, no such meaning (or any other figurative meaning) appears at rhubarb in volume IV, P-Sk (2002) of DARE. DCDuring (talk) 00:10, 30 September 2020 (UTC)[reply]